Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can affect you at any age. However, it most commonly develops between the late teens and early 40s, and women are more prone to it than men.
IBS is a chronic (i.e. long-term) condition arising from abnormal motility of your intestines. The exact cause of IBS isn’t clear, but many people identify triggers that start or worsen an episode, such as stress, and certain foods and medicines. Your bowel begins to spasm rather than contract smoothly and regularly, causing gastrointestinal symptoms.
- abdominal pain and cramping
- alternating constipation and diarrhea
- pellet-like or ribbon-like stools
IBS is not life-threatening and does not increase your risk of more serious intestinal conditions. However, its symptoms are similar to those of several other conditions and may also be the result of food intolerances or enzyme deficiencies, so it’s important to undergo tests to eliminate these conditions.
Reducing stress, exercising regularly and modifying your diet can al help, as can medication. You may be prescribed:
- Antispasmodics:these can help with muscle spasms, but there are doubts as to how effective they are in IBS and their side-effects make them unsuitable for some people.
- Laxatives to relieve constipation.
- Anti-diarrheal drugs to control diarrhea.
- Bulking agents that can help regulate and slow the movement of food through your bowel.
- Anti-depressants: Some antidepressants have a useful side-effect of reducing stomach pain and cramping.